Meetings in Tashkent

Who moves the society in Uzbekistan? Our task was particularly difficult : the associative tissue is not very dense, the access to the governmental workers quiet hard, and we give to our partners to give us a global view of their society is obviously limited. Nevertheless, our meetings, if they were not numerous, were definitely interesting and fruitful (english - french).

How to understand the society of Uzbekistan ? Who are the people and organisations who move the society ? To see this more clearly let us visit the people ! Before arriving in Tashkent we had no preliminary contacts. We extracted some addresses from an online directory created by an American cooperation listing the contact details of non-governmental organizations in Central Asia, however it contained a lot of incorrect information. Using this database we were able to contact the first group of people to hear them speak about their partners and other initiatives which allowed us to make new acquaintances. Here is an outline from our 10 days of investigation in the capital of Uzbekistan.

Above all, we would like to thank Macha, a researcher in the Tashkent Institute of Hydrology, who arranged our meetings that made our stay in Tashkent so much richer. And Kendon (Brink expedition) for his contribution to translate this text in english.

Business Women Association of Uzbekistan (BWA)
- Meeting with Dildar Alimbekova - President of the association

The association was first created in 1991 in Central Asia after the end of the soviet regime. BWA provides essential support to small and medium-sized companies created by women and is the most important of its kind in Uzbekistan. The association supports female entrepreneurs by training, supporting micro-credit and advising, thereby contributing to the process of economic planning in Uzbekistan.

"With the economic difficulties associated with the independence of the Central Asian countries in 1991, the high tax system, the difficulty of procedures and access to micro-credit, we had to imagine a means to assist our entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the fact that many women, traditionally, are married between 20 and 23 years of age and as a result participate in business after 26 years of age. Today among 200 000 small firms in Uzbekistan, 20 000 arose from female initiatives. Several organisations were established to strengthen the foundations of organisations working in this arena, notably a union of credit banks. We estimate to have supported 12 000 creators of economic activity during our 14 years ", says Dildar. The organization establishes a renewed strategic plan every three years and arranges several autonomous branches in the Uzbek regions. This initiative has also been recently implemented in Kazakstan, Tadjikistan and in Kirghizistan.

Dildar is a member of a governmental council and participates at present in a study group for the reforms of laws applying to economic activities. She emphasises the enormous difficulty of Uzbek associations to survive during the last year due to a ministerial measure regulating the activities of the associations. " We do not dare to imagine processes where we can share our visions and to build common propositions together. Our challenges in the future include: to imagine how to participate in professional training, to insure the follow-up of the development of these entrepreneurs and to use the lessons we learn from our experiences .“

Some partners of the association: the world Association of the Women Entrepreneurs, the Assembly of the Feminine Non-Governmental Organisations for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Uzbek Union of Credit Banks, the Ministry of Justice, the Uzbek Ministry of Employment and of Social Welfare, the World Bank, the European Commission, German Handicraft Chamber, USAID, UNDP, and the Economic and Social Centre of Research.

ARK Cultural Project
- Meeting with Rifat Gumerov - coordinator and Leon Zakrevsky - association of the Uzbek lawyers, International Noospherical Conference (local association)

Educated in the Freynet pedagogy at the Ferghana’s Educational Institute in Uzbekistan, Rifat continues his work as an alternative activist, but this time in the artistic domain. He explains the key idea of the ARK Cultural Project . "Each of us is alone to drive his life. Between the birth and the death, our life line mixes with others in the form of our interactions. ARK project gathers artists around this idea and wants to show that our lives are interdependent and contribute to a re-genesis of society. Architects, women, artists (writers, plastic surgeons, painters, musicians, dancers), young people are united of this idea. Every artist can take an artistic initiative. This project is a means to protect and to promote our culture, especially when the power of money and profit make the values of life empty".

Several editions have been edited, notably ARK and Dixi, collecting novels and poetries of young writers.

Association for the Free Literature
- Meeting with Alexandrovich Iakovlev - president of the association, painter and writer

This informal association works as a book editor and creates its projects by meeting and discussing with local writers. Alexandrovich, in particular, organises expositions and workshops with the participation of artists and writers. The association released in 1992 one edition entitled "Tak Kak" with the key idea to re-generate philosophy and poetry after the collapse of the USSR.

"Which ideologies do we have now after the end of the soviet union ? It is one of the first questions that asked Alexandrovich. We need to re-found our ideologies about the society and the future and it means that we have to find alternatives. That is pretty difficult here. There are no independent medias and they are under pressure. To discuss about politics is always risky".

Complements :
- An alternative information website (English - Russian - Uzbek)
- the Alliance of independent publishers.

Club of photographers - Art Academy of Uzbekistan
- Meeting with Vladimir Hirnov - photographer and others members of the association

A large part of the 25 members of the club (section photo of the Art Academy of Uzbekistan) gathers every week-end in a pizzeria of Tashkent. Although there are no labs and any photo accessories there, this is the table, the draft beer, the photos, the shared experiences and ideas which make the menu of the day. The team of photographers is sensitive to the variety of cultures and to the international citizenship. Vladimir gives some of his artistic ideas : to photograph a one day life in all the countries of the planet for example, to set up a project on the human eyes, because the eyes are like a mirror and a revelation of the life. "At the moment, to speak about project is an utopia, says Vladimir. It is very difficult to find means for a project. From the uzbek government, it is impossible, and we have difficulties to reach the foreign cultural interlocutors such as embassies. We write, and we wait for replies. Of course, we are looking for photographers and associations with whom we could exchange and why not to collaborate ".

Tourist Development Centre of Samarkand
- Ten minutes with Farrukh Naberayev - director

This centre in Samarkand participates in a touristic development project supported by the European Union and conducted in 5 regions of the country. " We have the chance to work with the European Union on this project in Uzbekistan in the framework of the TACIS program (Technical Assistance for Community of Independant States). Five regions of Uzbekistan are concerned and we set up several things to promote the tourist potential : information centres, training of the touristic actors and quality management of services. The State planned for 10 years its policy in tourism and promoted to open the country. It make us confident, because the war in Afghanistan, the events in the Ferghana valley reduced the tourist activities. However, the State is very strict with the civil organisations. It controls their action and the fundings allocation coming from international funders. Many associations will certainly disappear. We would like to build an union of organisations working for tourism but it is very difficult to imagine such a thing at the moment ! ".

World bank - branch of Tashkent
- Meeting with Matluba Mukhamedova

The World Bank laid its first foundation in Kyrgystan in 1992 after the independence of Uzbekistan. It supports the creation of infrastructures in the arena of health, education, water supply, transportation and also support the entrepreneurship. Its main partners are the services of the government and, on a more technical level, the local NGOs.
Matluba emphasises the challenge to adapt working procedures with the uzbek government which want to control everything. "Studies are useful for us because they allow us to point and highlight different aspects for the government. Regarding the cotton for example, a study showed that a part of the taxes come back in grant to the farmers. This data attracted the government to go deeper. Regarding our branch, our network of World Bank branches allows us to exchange our experiences, and to register data that we register in a centralised data bank. Our local experience paricipate to the definition of regional strategies ".
The World Bank invested about 600 million dollars since 1992 in Uzbekistan in the form of loans (150 million dollars during 2002-2004). Kazakstan and Uzbekistan do not receive a lot of public aid from the rich countries. 0,8 % for Kazakstan (in % of the GDP of 2002), 2,4 % for Uzbekistan. Kirghizistan get 11 % .

With the Commonwealth of Independent States, Central Asia is far to get a supranational political community (Organization of Economic Cooperation included) leading a political project and having a capacity to define inner policies. The international agencies, the NGOs seem the only ones today to promote a cross-border dimension.

To know more about it :
- The Web site of the World Bank agency in Uzbekistan
- The Centre of economic research.

Association of the users of the water ( Suvchi)
- Meeting Mr Majidov - president, teacher in the National Institute of Irrigation

Created in 2000 to support the farmers to use the water, Suvchi gathers today academicians specialists of water ressource in Uzbekistan. The association participates today to the law making process relative to the using of water in the framework of a study group established by the Senate. The association wants to promote a sustainable management of water and to sensibilise the users and the decision-makers. It has today only very limited means.

The question of sharing the water ressource is very important in Central Asia for several reasons :
- the pressure for the irrigation of lands, notably for the culture of the cotton, is huge (between 1974 and 1986, the water of Syr-daria will have reached only very rarely the Aral Sea because of the excessive pumpings ! )
- the increasing demand due to the increase of surfaces cultivated in Kyrgystan and the recent entrance of Afghanistan in the water supply market,
- The water is unevenly distributed in the countries and the big rivers of Central Asia (the Amu-Darya and the Syr-daria), get their water in every States of the sub-region.

Mr Majidov mentions the existence of an international Commission for water management in Central Asia and precises that a project of an agreement is in the schedule of the ministries. In 1996, several experts worked on the water sustainable management with the initiative of an academician. Their works had to provide the Economic planning ministry and the creation of a non-governmental organisation to implement their proposals.

He clarifies that the transition of the ex-USSR regime towards the opening markets is difficult in Uzbekistan where the State, somehow nostalgic of the centralisation and certainly demanding new economic models, slows down the privatization. 65 % of the population is rural. At the end of kolkhozes system, a good part of the farmers feels lost in front of the possibilities offered by the laws of the market regarding the property.

Complements :
- The thematic workshop of the Alliance 21.

- See our meeting with the Guitar Club of Tashkent.

Complements :
- Media specialised of Central Asia

Others :
- Institute for Regional Studies
- the Eurasia foundation

For a next journey ?
- The Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research

Tashkent - Uzbekistan, on September 18, 2005.

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